According to a recent Politico article, Vice President Joe Biden is being criticized by some of his backers for not doing more to promote his 2016 presidential candidacy. Should Biden choose to run, he would, no doubt, face a formidable opponent in Hillary Clinton, the erstwhile first lady, senator, and secretary of state who is widely considered to be the Democratic front-runner. It's right that she should be considered a top contender for the Oval Office, given her impressive resume and long history of remarkable political resilience. But there is also a strong case to be made for Biden’s candidacy. To whit:
1. He has the experience we need.
As the recent string of landmark Supreme Court decisions has made clear, we live in an important time in America’s judicial history. Biden’s decades of service on the Senate Judiciary Committee give him an exceptional understanding of how our courts operate. As such, he may be able to ensure that the courts serve the people’s interests, instead of being hijacked by ideological radicals (his capability was best demonstrated by his handling of the Robert Bork confirmation hearings). Similarly, as a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a key foreign policy adviser for President Obama, Biden has been effective in grappling with complex issues ranging from ethnic conflict in the Balkans, to the Arab-Israeli peace process, to South African apartheid, to our seemingly intractable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Finally, he has long used his clout to champion the rights of the vulnerable, from women seeking refuge from physical and sexual abuse (he drafted the Violence Against Women Act of 1994), to low-income children struggling to afford a quality education (he championed a number of student financial aid and loan programs).
2. He has the right public image.
Although pundits like to scoff at Biden’s tendency toward gaffes, his ostensible weakness could, in fact, be one of his greatest strengths. After all, Americans love a good comeback story; Harry Truman’s legendary upset victory over Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election continues to be a favorite of students of political history. Like Biden, Truman made a number of trivial blunders, and was widely disregarded. However, by remaining true to himself and embracing his plain speaking style, Truman defied conventional wisdom – Dewey was favored by nearly all of the pundits of his time – and famously demonstrated that authenticity can triumph over shrewd packaging. While Biden’s likely 2016 opponents are considerably to the right of Dewey ideologically, there is little question that pols like Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) could each give Dewey a run for his money in terms of sheer slickness. By following Truman’s example and remaining genuine, Biden would benefit from the contrast with any of them.
3. He has an inspiring personal story.
As the media increasingly focuses on the issue of childhood bullying, attention should be paid to Biden’s personal history; as a child, Biden had a speech impediment that took him years to master. As someone who was bullied while growing up, I can personally attest to how such treatment instills within its victims a visceral empathy for others who are victimized, whether it is for being gay, having a developmental handicap, looking different, or anything else. What’s more, by virtue of his subsequent achievements, Biden is in a unique position to serve as a role model for victims of bullying who need to know that they can overcome their present hardships and experience a bright future.
None of this is intended as a way of saying that I’d prefer Biden over Clinton in the Democratic primaries next year. Indeed, a primary contest between Clinton and the vice president would pose a very difficult decision for me, as I suspect it would for thoughtful Democrats everywhere. Then again, at a time when elections often offer little more than a choice between lesser evils, I, for one, would eagerly anticipate the dilemma that comes with deciding between two genuinely appealing alternatives.